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The Tribune headline on Monday (Bears lose, but who cares? Let the playoffs begin!) and your story, which seemed to agree, disturbed me. The Bears carry the heritage of a proud franchise as well as pride of all true Bears fans every time they step on the field. The Bears laid down as an organization out of fear. They were afraid someone might get hurt if they put up their best fight. Did the last Super Bowl team we had shy away from their 16th game opponent? I don't recall it that way. Thoughts? --Jeff LaVette, Manteno, Ill.
I'm guessing you would've been more disturbed if the Bears played their starters more and one had gotten hurt. I received this question---or a variation of it---often and maybe I'm in the minority, but I don't see the problem. The Bears earned the right to play a meaningless game however they wanted. That's what earning a first-round bye before the final game of the season means.
You think playing Rex Grossman one or two series or even one or two quarters would've made him sharper on Jan. 14 or 15? Again, I don't see it. Now, if the coaching staff had seen rust in Grossman during his first two appearances or in practice and wanted to get him some work, that's another story. But obviously they felt comfortable enough with Grossman's performance to rest him. The Bears aren't the only team to rest starters in a meaningless game. It happens often.
I believe the Bears would be in much better shape if Jeff Blake were the No. 2 quarterback in the postseason. God forbid if Rex goes down for a play, a quarter, a half or a game. The last thing the Bears need is Orton throwing the ball at receivers' feet or over their heads. Any thoughts? --Kevin Scholla, Lower Makefield, Pa.
Correct me if I'm wrong but Orton started 10 victories at quarterback. Throw out a five-interception debacle against Cincinnati and he didn't make mistakes to lose games. Orton did what the Bears asked him to domanage games and protect the ball. Orton definitely had accuracy issues. And Blake is a veteran who looked good in his short stint against Minnesota. But for continuity's sake, the coaching staff has already named Orton the No. 2. I don't disagree.
It appears the most likely matchup for the Bears' first playoff game is the Bucs. I personally think it's a very good matchup because their weaknessthe offensive line--against the Bears' strength--the defensive line. Plus, Simms is very beatable and the Bears' defense has been good at stopping the running game most of the time. What's your take on this matchup? --Tom Pappalardo, Chicago
The Bears sacked Simms four times in their meeting, including one by Alex Brown that forced the fumble recovered by Tommie Harris at the Bucs' one-yard line that led to a touchdown. I agree that the Bucs' offensive line is beatable. I also agree the Bears have stopped the run well, although Cadillac Williams has played strong down the stretch. He had 84 yards in the first meeting. If they meet again, I wouldn't be surprised to see him go for more.
A couple of years ago a lot of people were pretty upset that Jerry Angelo wouldn't give Nick Saban all the control he wanted. Lovie was looked on as a consolation choice, so Angelo could keep control. I haven't heard anybody grousing about this situation lately. Do you think Angelo may actually have known what he was doing or is it too soon to tell? -- Rick Hauptmann, Portales N.M.
I've only been around Lovie Smith for five months since this is my first year on the beat, so I can only speak to what I've witnessed. And I've seen a calm, confident leader who instills those qualities in his team. The best way to judge general managers is by their draft picks and coaching hires and Angelo seems to have done well in both departments. Smith will get Coach of the Year votes and Angelo's last few drafts have turned up some winners.
I have been a Bears fan since 1975 when I studied in Chicago and I have followed them ever since. I like our chances of going all the way. However, in your opinion, do you really think our defense can stop a good scoring team like Seattle, Denver or the Colts? Not to take anything away from our defense, but I am not sure if we can really stop an explosive team. Remember how we lost to Cincinnati? -- Lamsam, Bangkok, Thailand
I think it's a better, more confident defense than at the time it faced Cincinnati. That said, any defense might have trouble with Seattle or the Colts if they're on. Both are high-powered offenses. I do think the defense has one advantage from earlier this season: With the offense coming on and starting to convert some third downs, the defense isn't on the field for as long. That can only help.
I know every GM will say they try to get the best available player, but has Jerry Angelo ever discussed his philosophy? -- Vic Fiebig, Springfield, Va.
Shockingly, it's trying to get the best available player.
A lot of people want to give Thomas Jones the team MVP award. I think the offensive line as a whole should get the team MVP for giving Thomas the opportunity to shine. That said, the individual MVP has to be Urlacher. Without him, the defense struggles. Who is your MVP? --Don, Union, Mich.
I'd go with Urlacher, too, with Jones a close second and Orton third. The thing about Urlacher is the amount of plays he affects without making the final tackle. He's everywhere and sets up teammates to make plays. He also forces opposing coaches to game plan around him. His impact, I think, can be summed up in statistics from last season: The Bears went 0-7 in games he missed.
Where is Michael Haynes? Is he just not playing? -- Kevin Pokrywka, Lombard, Ill.
He hasn't been active much but he was in the season finale against Minnesota. It's unlikely he'll be back. So that's one Angelo draft pick that can be questioned.
Do you think Ron Rivera will take a head coaching job somewhere? Would he really go to (gasp!) Green Bay? -- John Anderson, Chicago
He'll certainly get opportunities to be a head coach elsewhere. He's set to interview with St. Louis and possibly Green Bay this week and more opportunities could present themselves. He's paid his dues, having climbed the ladder. He served as the Bears' quality control defensive coach, a linebackers coach with Philadelphia and defensive coordinator with the Bears. That's the kind of experience that teams like. He also has worked with great coaches. But perhaps his best attribute is his ability to deal with players. Stay tuned.